It’s the most wonderful time of the year! At least... it should be. The Detroit Tigers have been unnervingly quiet during this year’s Hot Stove season — don’t sleep on those Rule 5 picks, though — leaving fans everywhere restless for what is to come in January and February. The team has a glaring hole in center field, with other areas in need of upgrading as well.
However, this is still a competitive roster. Miguel Cabrera is here! Ditto Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler! The Tigers have plenty of talent, and could compete in 2017 if said talent stays healthy and productive. They could use one more piece, though...
In the true spirit of Christmas, the BYB staff has been tasked with the oldest and noblest of December traditions: asking for way too much and pouting when it doesn’t go your way.
This week’s question: If Santa could leave the Tigers one player not named Mike Trout under the Christmas tree, who would it be?
Ashley: Dear Santa, I've been relatively good this year depending on whose definition you use. So, if you would kindly bring Max Scherzer back to the Tigers I would be ever so grateful. Max has gone on to pitch two no-hitters and one 20-strikeout game since going to Washington, as well as winning his second Cy Young Award. Meanwhile the Tigers’ starting rotation has been, um, less than stellar (Verlander, Fulmer, and Norris aside). Please, Santa, bring Max back to Detroit. And if you can make the Nationals keep paying for him, that would also be cool.
Rob: While someone like Clayton Kershaw or Kris Bryant would provide a larger overall upgrade to this Tigers roster, Christmas isn’t about needs. This is why I want Bryce Harper in a Tigers uniform. He is coming off a down year, but lit the baseball world on fire in 2015 when he hit .330/.460/.649 with 42 home runs en route to his first career NL MVP Award. Harper has always been the 1b to Mike Trout’s 1a, and is the kind of no doubt superstar that Mike Ilitch has always coveted. Sure, Harper won’t be around for long — he’ll sign that mega contract with the Yankees after the 2018 season — but just imagine him and Miguel Cabrera in the same lineup together. Go on, I’ll give you a moment.
Okay, now clean yourself up. You’re drooling everywhere.
Les: Dear Santa, please get us Gary Sanchez. He was probably at least the fourth-best rookie last year, and trolling the Yankees is a gift to the world.
Patrick O’Kennedy: My player is Ender Inciarte. He hit .291/.351/.381 with 85 runs scored and 16 steals while playing brilliant defense for the Atlanta Braves last year. He plays center field, bats left-handed, gets on base, and is just now arbitration eligible for the first time. He's affordable and will be under club control for four more seasons.
Patrick Whelan: I'll take one Nolan Arenado, please. He gets lost playing for the Rockies, but has arguably the best glove in the National League and absolutely mashes. He may not fit best with this Tigers team, but he's pure entertainment and this is my Christmas gift so I don't care what you think. Also, I traded him in a fantasy baseball keeper league and it makes me sad every single day.
I would also like the $200 million dollars he is soon to be making. Maybe even $300 million, and I'll keep part of it. I feel like if Santa is hand delivering me a major league player he could probably get me some cash too. How stringent are we on these requests?
Jeff: I’ll take Jonathon Lucroy, who is one of the best two-way catchers in the game. People marvel over James McCann’s caught stealing rate of 45 percent, but Lucroy is not far behind at 39 percent. Lucroy has also been in the top half in pitch framing numbers over the last few seasons, according to Stat Corner. On the offensive side, Lucroy finished second with a 123 wRC+ at 123 among catchers with at least 350 plate appearances last season (Wilson Ramos barely edged him out at 124 wRC+). Over the last three years, Lucroy is second only to Buster Posey among catchers (min. 1000 plate appearances) in both wRC+ (119) and fWAR (11.8). Those numbers even include an injured-riddled 2015 season. Lucroy will only be making $5.25 million in 2017, making him one of the best bargains in the game today. With Lucroy on the Tigers team, they wouldn’t have to worry about finding a platoon partner for McCann.
Ron: I'd like Santa to bring the Tigers Andrew Miller. He was one of, if not the best reliever in baseball this past regular season. His 2016 postseason performance for the Cleveland Indians was incredible. He was flexible, coming in as early as the fifth inning and as late as the eighth inning. Opponents hit just .179 against him while he tallied 30 strikeouts and only five walks in 19 1⁄3 postseason innings pitched. Miller is signed through the 2018 season and plays for a division rival. If the Tigers had him, Cleveland would not, and that would help shift the AL Central back into Detroit’s favor for one last postseason run before they start rebuilding. The Tigers’ bullpen has always been a weakness , especially when they have gotten into the postseason. Miller would be perfect for our ‘pen, since we already have several quality arms in guys like Francisco Rodriguez, Alex Wilson, Bruce Rondon, and Justin Wilson.
Grace: Dear Santa, I've been quite good this year. All I want for Christmas is Rick Porcello back in a Tigers uniform. He belongs in Detroit. The Tigers drafted him out of high school, brought him up through the minor leagues, and he made his major league debut with them in 2009 at the age of 20. He was a Tiger until our general manager traded him to Boston after the 2014 season, breaking my heart along the way. Ricky won his first career Cy Young award for his stellar 2016 season (though Justin Verlander deserved it more) and the Tigers could really use another really good starting pitcher in the rotation. So Santa, if you could somehow bring Rick Porcello back to the Motor City, I'll be even more good next year. Thank you.
Nolan: For Christmas I'd like to see Dellin Betances. Detroit had a lot of good relievers in small doses in 2016, but fatigue seemed to bite everyone in the bullpen at one point or another. To remedy that, Santa may as well bring us the most durable reliever in all of baseball. Betances has pitched over 70 innings each of the last three years. It doesn't hurt that he's pretty dang good, as well. He has a career ERA of 2.16, a 2.06 FIP, and a strikeout rate that topped 15 K/9 in 2016. Make it happen, Santa.
Kyle: It would be a Christmas miracle for the Tigers to find Mookie Betts under the Christmas tree. A young, fast, hard-hitting center fielder would be perfect for the current Detroit roster. His 47 steals over the last two seasons are miles above any Tiger, and his 127 wRC+ during this span sits behind just Miguel Cabrera and Ian Kinsler. No one in Detroit can best his 33 DRS, 16.2 UZR, or 12.6 fWAR over these two years. Betts is exactly what the Tigers need going into 2017.
John: My wish is for a very Gary Christmas. Having been very bad boys and girls all year, the Yankees fan base will wake up on Christmas morning to see they no longer have catcher Gary Sanchez on their team. Being a keen evaluator of team needs, Chris Kringle will see that James McCann is, in reality, not much more than a back-up catcher. Santa will reward the milk and cookies the Tigers leave out on Christmas Eve with a young, cost-controlled catcher who can hit dingerz.
Yes, the team has a greater need in center field. However, Sanchez’s 2016 performance speaks for itself. He hit 20 home runs in just 53 games, with a 1.032 OPS and a 171 wRC+. He could have the defensive catching ability of a blind man with his arms duct taped to his sides and I wouldn’t care much, because his offense is that good. Luckily, he was named best defensive catcher in the International League last year. He isn’t arbitration eligible until 2020, so he is going to be dirt cheap for quite some time. Just imagine how fun it would be to watch your catcher absolutely crush baseballs for the foreseeable future.
He’s no Rookie of the Year, but he’ll do.
Peter: Dear Santa, please bring the Tigers Clayton Kershaw. Simply put, no pitcher in baseball can touch the man for what he has done the past five years. Since 2011, Kershaw holds a 2.02 ERA and 2.22 FIP. He has been worth 35.7 WAR, and has struck out 10.12 batters per nine innings while walking 1.72 per nine. He is the best pitcher on the planet.
Now, you will notice I asked for just Clayton Kershaw. You can keep his contract, because boy howdy that's quite the financial commitment. If anyone can figure out how to get this done, I know it’s you, Santa. Anyway, I'll be looking forward to Christmas morning.
P.S. If you could also get Al Avila to make some good moves already, that would be great too.